Arrrooo! ‘Oceans Thirteen’ vs. cougars

Pub date June 8, 2007
SectionPixel Vision

OK, someone has to voice it: was I the only one who detected a whiff of misogyny in the latest three-quel to shamble lazily into our movie theaters, Oceans Thirteen?

Ellen Barkin’s ruthless manager Abigale Sponder inflicts her rigid beauty standards on a would-be casino cocktail waitress.

Ladies note: all that self-tanner use is admirable ‘n’ all – kudos especially for the job around the wrinkly peepers of Al Pacino – but what’s with Steven Soderbergh and company’s conflicted treatment of the bad girl of the piece: Pacino’s assistant Abigale Sponder, played by Ellen Barkin who’s sexed up in a tight hot-pink sheath, boobage jacked up to bubble-like Wonderbra proportions. Her chest literally steals the second half of the show: it’s impossible to look at anything else when she’s or they’re on screen. Is overt retro-sexism acceptable when it’s swathed in Rat Pack-style nostalgia and quasi-pro-sexy feminism? Yet the fact that the Matt Damon character – of all of the crew and in a faux honker to boot – can swoop the “cougar” as he calls her, is insulting. There’s no need to roll out the “real” weaponry like Brad Pitt.

Older women are ripe prey for any ole member of Danny Ocean’s crew?

On the surface, one might posit that Barkin’s lusty portrayal is empowering for older gals, but you can’t hide the contempt in the filmmaker’s gaze – never mind that she’s a bad guy’s moll in the style of Natasha and Boris. The fact she’s served up – the sole female “name” among the many Hollywood hotties – like a aging flesh sandwich as some sort of signifier of corruption in Ocean‘s glam universe, reeks of not-so-covert crone-bashing.

I’m all for juicier parts for older actresses, but do worthy players like Barkin need to stoop to this?